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Sangju Sangmu Prepare for Big-Name Departures


Sangju Sangmu FC have been making waves in the K League 1 this season, but at the end of August they face another squad reshuffle as a group of soldiers finish their military service and return to their parent clubs. So which players are leaving, and who could step up to take their places?


Service Over

A total of six players will finish their military service on August 27th. Among them are two players who have been vital to Sangju’s success so far this season: Kang Sang-woo and Han Suk-jong.

Kang, who will return to Pohang Steelers, has been one of the surprise standout performers of the K League 1. The winger has scored seven goals and added another five assists in sixteen games so far this year, a remarkable return for a player who has spent most of his career playing at left back.

Captain Han Suk-jong
Han Suk-jong (on loan from Incheon United) has garnered far fewer headlines, but the Sangju captain has been a wonderfully consistent performer in the Sangju engine room. Tall, powerful and roaming, the central midfielder has worked excellently in tandem with anchorman Park Yong-woo. Han’s leadership and composure in the middle of the park will be sorely missed as Sangju aim to cement their hold on a top four place.

Of the other departures, striker Jin Seong-wook and midfielder Lee Chan-dong (both Jeju United players with international experience) will also be missed. Jin led the line for much of the early season, while Lee has been a solid option in central midfield.

Kim Dae-joong (Incheon) and Ryu Seung-woo (Jeju) are the other players finishing their service. Kim has only made three appearances in his time with the club, while former Bayer Leverkusen player Ryu has only made one appearance so far this term due to injury.

Reshuffling the Pack

Sangju Sangmu's squad for the remainder of the 2020 season
Despite the loss of players, Sangju still have a solid core of personnel who have featured heavily so far this season. Among them, centre backs Kwon Kyung-won and Kim Jin-hyeok have formed an impressive partnership at the back, while keeper Lee Chang-geun has been solid in goal. Park Yong-woo, excellent so far this year, will continue to be first choice in central midfield, while the likes of Moon Seon-min and Oh Se-hun will be relied upon for goals. 

Sangju also welcomed several new faces to the squad at the end of May, and many of these will soon come into contention for starting berths in Kim Tae-wan’s lineup. Among the players likely to see action in the second half of the season are Gyeongnam centre back Woo Joo-seong, Pohang full backs Sim Sang-min and Kim Yong-hwan, and fellow Steeler Heo Yong-joon.

Heo Yong-joon in action for Jeonnam Dragons
Heo, especially, is the kind of player who could thrive under Kim Tae-wan’s tutelage. Kim has a history of bringing the best out of talented players who had, for one reason or another, not previously performed to their full potential. Kang Sang-woo and Park Yong-ji are just two examples of such success stories over the past year and a half, and Heo is certainly talented enough to become a key figure for Sangju this season. The 27 year-old had an excellent 2018 season, scoring nine goals in the top tier for Jeonnam Dragons and even earning a national team call-up. Heo failed to replicate that form in 2019 with underwhelming spells at Incheon United and then Pohang, but a run of games in Kang’s vacated left-wing role could be the catalyst for a return to form.

FC Seoul striker Park Dong-jin, who scored six goals last season, is another who could thrive in a Sangju shirt, while Jung Won-jin (also from FC Seoul) could be a valuable asset if he can replicate the form that saw him score ten goals from midfield in 2017.

There will be fierce competition for places alongside Park Yong-woo in the midfield after the departures of Han Suk-jong and Lee Chang-dong. Moon Chang-jin, Kim Min-hyeok, Kim Sun-woo and Park Se-jin have all had spells in the side this year, while An Tae-hyun (who has been first choice at left back so far this season) could revert to a midfield role once specialist left backs Sim Sang-min and Lee Myung-jae come into contention.

Of the other May recruits who could make an impact, diminutive playmaker Lee Jeong-bin (who has been on loan to FC Anyang from Incheon United) looks like the kind of technically efficient midfielder that usually thrives in Kim Tae-wan’s system, while wingers Kang Ji-hoon (Gangwon FC) and Jeong Jae-hee (Jeonnam Dragons) will also be knocking on the door for places.


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Verdict


Although the losses of Kang Sang-woo and Han Suk-jong will affect Sangju’s starting eleven, Kim Tae-wan still has a large and talented squad to work with. The reinforcements from May, who are now starting to be included in matchday squads, add depth and quality to the roster, especially at full back and in attack. Headline players Moon Seon-min, Oh Se-hun, Kwon Kyung-won and Park Yong-woo will all be fixtures in the side for another year, and coach Kim Tae-wan has several other talented players who have the potential to become the next surprise package of the league.



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